Readers of previous posts by this author on the case of Swindol v. Aurora Flight Sciences (now pending in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of MS) are familiar with the facts of that case, but a brief re-cap.
Swindol, an honorably discharged vet and experienced artisan in the aerospace industry, was fired when, apparently, a co-employee reported the presence of a gun in his vehicle, which was locked and parked in Aurora’s publicly accessible parking lot (that is, no gate, no guard, no nothing).
Not only was it perfectly legal for Swindol to have a firearm in his car under Mississippi law, Section 45-9-55 of the Missisippi Code specifically prohibits employers from adopting (and therefore enforcing) any policy prohibiting employees from having weapons in their locked vehicles on company property when the parking lot in which the vehicle is parked is accessible to the public.
In Swindol, Aurora has asked the District Court to dismiss his case because:
- Mississippi is an at-will employment state and an employee can be fired for any reason or no reason (excepting those prohibited by federal law—on account of race, religion, age, sex or national origin), and
- There are only two exceptions to the at-will employment rule—an employer cannot fire an employee for refusing to commit an illegal act or for reporting to authorities that the employer is committing unlawful acts.
Swindol, in his reply, asking the Court to allow the case to proceed, and asks the Court to create a third exception to the at-will doctrine– that is, where strong public policy, evidenced by the Mississippi Constitution, other Mississippi laws permitting the open or concealed carry of firearms and the particular statute in question, allows an employee to have weapon it his or her car as long as the parking lot meets the “open to the public requirement. “
There is another case reported here, Joseph Edward Parker v. Leaf River Cellulose which is a similar case.
Although Leaf River has taken a different tack. In that case, Leaf River attacks the case on the last sentence of the statute, which says,
“A public or private employer shall not be liable in a civil action for damages resulting from or arising out of an occurrence involving the transportation, storage, possession or use of a firearm covered by this section.”
It is stunningly obvious that Leaf River misinterprets this provision of the law. It is obviously meant to immunize employers from liability if an employee who legally brings his firearm on employer premises then commits a crime.
It is not, just as obviously, meant to prevent employees who legally bring a firearm (in anticipation of self-defense) from bringing a firearm on the premises.
The argument of the defendant employers are equally specious, and detrimental to the right of Mississippians to protect themselves. One says we can fire you for any reason, the other says we can fire you because we have a policy.
Both ignore the Second Amendment rights of all citizens.
We do not know which court will rule first, but that ruling will have a significant impact on the ruling of the other. We can only hope that the District Courts follow what we perceive to be the law and the rights of all Americans under the Second Amendment and the laws of Mississippi.
David Butts is an attorney with offices in Tupelo and Jackson, MS. He is the counsel in Swindol v.Aurora, Reed Martz of Oxford, Ms, is counsel in Parker v. Leaf River.